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Air Machines

When does technology translate into real social change? Pleading against pure technophilia, El Lissitzky writes in 1926:

It is shortsighted to think that the machine alone, that is to say, the supplanting of manual processes by mechanical ones In the first place it is the consumer who determines the change by his requirements; I refer to the stratum of society that furnishes the “commission.” Today it is not a narrow circle, a thin upper layer, but “All,” the masses.

(El Lissitzky, Our Book, 1926)

His remark reminds us of the consumer’s central power in a society economically oriented towards the production of material goods, where “dematerialization” is just a mere extension.

The idea that moves the masses today is called “materialism,” but what precisely characterizes the present time is dematerialization. […] Then comes further growth of the communications network and increase in the volume of communications; then radio eases the burden. The amount of material used is decreasing, we are dematerializing, cumbersome masses of material are being supplanted by released energies. That is the sign of our time.

(El Lissitzky, Our Book, 1926)

What about ours?